Newswise — Ithaca, NY—Birdwatchers set a new world record on May 9 for birds documented in a single day. During the annual Global Big Day, participants reported a record-breaking 2.1 million bird observations, recording 6,479 species. An all-time high of 50,000 participants submitted more than 120,000 checklists, shattering the previous single-day checklist total by 30%.

The Global Big Day sightings were submitted to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's free eBird program, which uses the data to power science, outreach, and conservation efforts around the world.

"This year's Global Big Day checklists contain more than 2.1 million observations of birds in a single calendar day," said eBird coordinator Ian Davies. "That means Global Big Day 2020 collected more information on birds than was submitted during the first 2.5 years of eBird’s existence!" Since the program launched in 2002, eBird has amassed more than 810 million observations of birds.

This Global Big Day was unprecedented for another reason: it took place during a pandemic. Participants birded where they could safely do so, socially distanced from balconies, gardens, and local parks—contributing from every continent toward a common cause. Their record-breaking numbers are part of a larger trend that has become pronounced in recent months as birds and nature have become a bright spot for many.
During the first two weeks of April, eBird checklist submissions jumped 46% compared with the same period the previous year. Contributions of photo and audio recordings to the Cornell Lab's Macaulay Library wildlife media archive, and downloads of the Lab's free Merlin Bird ID app, were all up by 50–100%.

"Contributions from birdwatchers around the world provide a whole new way of seeing biodiversity," says Steve Kelling, co-director of the Center for Avian Population Studies at the Cornell Lab. "Your observations help build an unparalleled window into the full annual cycle of bird populations that will help us better understand and prevent avian population declines."

Even watching birds for just 10 minutes and sharing observations, photos, and sound recordings at, any day of the year, from anywhere in world, can help the effort to better understand, conserve, and enjoy birds.

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